Hope for rain as El Niño appears in forecast

Experts say after three years of drought, it is possible we may get floods this year

In Summary
  • Kenya Meteorological services director Dr David Gikungu did not confirm if there is any indication of the weather event.
  • The El Niño and La Niña phenomena are some of the biggest cause of year-to-year differences in weather in Kenya.
Carcasses of animals in Lagbohol, Wajir county.
DROUGHT: Carcasses of animals in Lagbohol, Wajir county.
Image: FILE

There is hope for heavy rains in Kenya and the rest of the Horn of Africa region after weather forecasts predicted an El Niño this year.

Weather experts say that possibility is quite low at the moment but it is growing.

El Niño usually brings more rain to the Horn of Africa region even though it leads to dry weather in many parts of the world.

Kenya Meteorological Services director David Gikungu did not confirm if there is any indication of the weather event.

However, several global weather agencies, including those in the US, Australia and the UK, have already confirmed an El Niño – the warming of the ocean surface, or above-average sea surface temperatures – is developing.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in its latest long-term forecast, notes: “The probabilities for El Niño remain very low until boreal spring (nearly 10 per cent), but during boreal summer, these probabilities dominate (49 per cent in May-July, 60 per cent in June-August, 64 per cent in July-September, and 66 per cent in August-October 2023).”

Previously, El Niño events have occurred from around May or June, with the system really kicking in by August or September and reaching its peak around Christmas time.

The El Niño and La Niña phenomena are some of the biggest cause of year-to-year differences in weather in Kenya.

The current drought, for instance, has been brought by a stubborn La Niña that has lingered for three years. It is expected to die out in March.

Weather experts caution that having conditions tilting towards an El Niño does not guarantee one will develop.

For instance, many models indicated an El Niño in 2014, but it failed to develop, instead coming in late 2015 and affecting 35,000 households in Kenya.

A forecast by Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology also shows a trend toward El Niño, by June.

The forecast suggests that after three consecutive La Niña years, the ocean is primed for a switch.

The World Meteorological Organization also notes the current La Niña will end in March, followed by neutral conditions.

“There is a 60 per cent chance that La Niña will continue until March 2023, followed by 'ENSO-neutral' conditions (neither El Niño nor La Niña),” WHO said in a press statement.

El Niño conditions would be welcome in Kenya because of the attendant rains.

The current drought has left about four million Kenyans needing relief food.

It is estimated that 2.5 million livestock have died due to the ongoing drought.

Scores of wildlife have also perished.

The government says more than 960,000 malnourished children have been reached with nutritional supplements as drought continues to ravage several parts of the country.

“There has been intervention in that regard. We have given nutritional supplements and if there are any deaths for children, they haven’t been associated with the drought specifically for now,” Arid and Semi Arid Lands Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano said on Thursday.

“We are going to follow up with the specific areas that are affected to ensure that we avert any of these eventualities. However, I am certain that the nutritional supplements and interventions have been able to assist the children,” she added.

Last year, data from the Ministry of Health had shown that 134,000 pregnant and lactating women in the country were acutely malnourished.

Also, 942,500 children aged between six months and five years were urgently in need of therapeutic treatment for acute malnutrition.

Acute malnutrition takes place when the body doesn’t receive the nutritional support it requires.


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